No.35 Zhu Lin underlined her position as the top-ranked Chinese woman and top seed at the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships by defeating her compatriot and No.3 seed Wang Xinyu 7-5, 7-6(6) to advance to Saturday's final.
Already a champion at Hua Hin in February, Zhu is bidding to win her second career title on Saturday. She has lost just one set during the week, with wins over Wang Xiyu, Moyuka Uchijima, Elizabeth Mandlik, and Wang Xinyu. Zhu has now won nine of her last eleven matches, including wins over Caroline Garcia in Cleveland and Victoria Azarenka at the US Open.
Facing Wang Xinyu for the third time in their careers, Zhu is now 6-0 in sets against the 21-year-old. Friday's showdown would be their toughest meeting, as Wang dug and refused to allow Zhu to close out her early leads.
With the two trading blows from the baseline, Zhu earned the early advantage to lead 4-1 in the opening set. Wang bounced back to get the match back on serve at 5-5 but gave up another break to give Zhu a chance to serve out the first set. In the toughest game of the match, Zhu held off three break points and held from 15-40 down.
The second set saw a similar pattern. Again, Wang was broken in her first service game but recovered to break back to 2-all. The two methodically traded holds of serve until the tiebreak. After Wang fired a backhand winner to save match point at 6-5, Zhu closed out the win on a forehand error to seal the 2-hour and 4-minute match.
Zhu will face 19-year-old American Ashlyn Krueger in the final. Ranked No.123, Krueger has not lost a set in Osaka on her way to her first Hologic WTA Tour final. She advanced on Friday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Japan's Mai Hontama.
Osaka is Krueger's 11th main draw appearance on the WTA Tour. She came into the tournament having tallied her only two tour-level wins in her career over the summer at s'Hertogenbosch.
The powerful Texan has overwhelmed the field on her way to her first final. In the eight sets she has played, only once did she lose more than three games in a set. She has posted wins over No.8 seed Kateryna Baindl, Jessika Ponchet, Anna Kalinskaya, and Hontama.